JiveWorld17 – Surviving Las Vegas

JiveWorld17 won’t be my first rodeo – I attended JiveWorld in Las Vegas in 2014 and it was quite the eye-opening experience for someone who’d never attended a vendor conference in the USA before. In addition, when REG was part of the Dachis Group, the team made annual treks to Vegas for Group conferences. With that under our collective belts, here’s a few things we’ve learned.

Be generous with your time and knowledge

For most of us, the point of attending a conference is to learn from and share with one another, with the aim of collectively making us all a little bit smarter and ideally moving the industry and our work that bit further forward. If we’re all there with similar overarching goals, it makes sense that people are interested to hear and learn from one another (and not just the speakers) about their experiences, especially what they’ve found worked and didn’t work. Don’t be “that person” who gobbles up time and knowledge from others without giving in return. Fortunately, most people at conferences fall into the generous and giving camp – aim to be one of them as well.

Find the power, and use it whenever you can

Even the most organised conferences still rarely get this right. At some conferences (and some venues), they’ve got this reasonably sorted – additional power charging stations are brought in, with plenty of space and kept functional. At super impressive conference setups, I’ve seen tables in sessions loaded with power bars where people could sit, take notes on their laptop, and get a power refill on their devices all at the same time. Brilliant!

In reality, power outlets can be few and far between, and if you’re really unlucky, they’ll have intense competition for them. Don’t wait until you absolutely need power before recharging. On a break and spot a free power outlet? Get in a quick top up before your next session. Try to balance it with giving everyone a turn – if someone’s desperately searching for power because they’ve only got 1 red bar left while you’re on 90%, yield the power.

Pro tip: think like a cleaner when hunting for outlets. Where would power outlets be put for a cleaner (think: vacuums, floor polishers)? Take a look around the lower edges of rooms and on pillars, and you’ll usually find the source of juice you need.

Conferences can be intense and draining

Now, this is true for a conference anywhere, but the scale of the conference in an unfamiliar location combined with attending on my own amplified and drove home this point. You are always “on” at a conference, and it can be tough work combining that being ‘on’ and networking with an often jam-packed schedule of learning, keeping up with work emails from home, and generating outputs from the conference to share back to your team and online. Not to mention the parties, drinks, dinners and meetups – some of which you’ll probably be attending out of obligation. Getting some good sleep and taking time on your own – whether that’s taking a soak in a tub, relaxing over a leisurely breakfast, fitting in an early morning walk or swim, or finding time to see a show – are key survival tactics.

Staying in a hotel that is not the conference venue is a bad idea

Vegas blocks are huge.

The more unfamiliar you are with Las Vegas, the more likely it is you will underestimate how much time you need to get from A to B – even with the aid of Google Maps. Prior to my visit, I felt very clever having saved a good sum in choosing to stay in a hotel that seemed close to the conference venue. I quickly discovered after the 30-odd rushed minutes it took to reach the venue each day that what we’d saved in raw dollars weren’t really made up for in time cost. It wasn’t just that it was physically a reasonable distance between the two hotels, but the winding (and initially confusing!) interiors of some of the hotel & casinos you need to make your way through can tack on considerable time to the journey.

Whilst walking to and from the conference each day is a nice way to get some exercise, it also meant there was no dashing up to the room for some quiet time, some privacy, or to freshen up between events. If I’d spilled my morning coffee on myself (heaven forbid!), I’d have been stuck in my coffee-stained shirt all day, unless I was prepared to miss a good chunk of session time (or had been carrying a spare shirt in my bag, I suppose!).

If you do take this route – whether by choice or by necessity – be prepared. Be prepared to walk (and be prepared to sweat doing it), and be prepared by bringing whatever you might need to get through a day and the evening with you each day.

Bring a refillable water bottle

Vegas is in the desert. It gets hot. Water is expensive in most hotels, and in most convenience stores. Not to mention that plastic water bottles end up in landfill. Keep hydrated, save your wallet, and help the planet a smidge by bringing and carrying a refillable water bottle with you wherever you go.

The coffee sucks

This isn’t just coffee snobbery (honest!), but fact – conference coffee is dreadful, bordering on undrinkable. Perhaps not entirely unique to Vegas conferences, though some of our team would go so far as to say the coffee in Las Vegas is terrible no matter where you drink it. Unless you’ve found some secret spot (and if you have, please share!), when it comes to a conference-supplied caffeine fix, you’re probably going to have to suck it up and apologise to your tastebuds later. Or drink tea.

The food can be wonderful, but it can also be truly terrible

Vegas caters for seemingly anyone and anything, on any budget. There are a plethora of spectacular restaurants in Vegas – many that are fully booked out far in advance – offering some incredible dining experiences. But there are some truly terrible dining options around too, and while sometimes cheap is cheerful, sometimes cheap is a crime against food. Worse still, sometimes food looks and tastes cheap, but actually costs you an obscene amount of money.

It’s worth doing some quick googling on dining options ahead of time, or even on the spot – a quick online review check might just save you from a miserable meal.

The shows are amazing

There is a mind-boggling array of shows you can see on any given night in Vegas, and from all accounts they’re all a spectacle worth seeing. Rave reviews generally accompany Cirque du Soleil anything, and there’s bound to be at least one music artist you like doing a residency, whether temporarily (e.g. Steely Dan) or more permanently (a la Britney Spears). Shop around and find something you like for what many consider a ‘must-do’ Vegas experience.

You really don’t need that “conference survival kit” you saw on Pinterest

Honest. If the venue or the staff at the conference don’t have what you need, someone will – or you can buy it. You don’t need a mini first aid kit, you don’t need 5 bottles of ‘5 hour energy,’ and you don’t need to pack enough snacks to feed a small army of children. Unless you’re three children stacked under a trench coat, in which case – bring all the snacks and then some.

And please – don’t pack green tea to “get a break from caffeine” as one blog suggested, unless it’s decaffeinated. Yes – green tea has caffeine, and lots of it. The conference will probably have some sort of herbal tea option – even if it’s just peppermint – but if they don’t, water is a great idea.

Gambling is hard to avoid

I don’t mean it’s hard to avoid partaking, but avoiding gaming floors and slot machines (aka pokies) is easier said than done. From the slot machines at the airport to the winding hotel designs intentionally leading you to – and through – the casino floor, conscientious objectors are probably better off avoiding Las Vegas altogether. Though there are plenty of non-Casino hotels, many conferences do take place at Casino hotels and there’s a good chance you’ll be on or walking by gambling tables and machines multiple times a day. Obviously if you do choose to gamble – this is Vegas, after all – please be responsible. Set a limit of what you can afford to lose, and stick to it.

Should you feel you need help with problem gambling, you can contact the Gambling Helpline in Australia on 1800 858 858 or in NZ, call 0800 654 655. In the USA, call 1-800-522-4700

Soak it all in and enjoy!

Overall, attending conferences, especially in a city you don’t get to often, is a fun and rewarding experience – even if it might seem a little daunting! Enjoy it, soak up as much knowledge as you can, and prepare to come home and put what you’ve learned to good use!